Understanding the timeline for divorce finalization

Previous posts on this Massachusetts family law blog have discussed the different grounds on which an in-state divorce may be based. In many instances, a divorce is based on fault, generally assigning blame for the end of the marriage to one of the parties to the marital dissolution. A divorce may also be without fault and relatively amicable for the parties.

Regardless of whether fault is involved in a divorce, the involved parties can be anxious to know when their marriage is truly over. The finalization of a divorce depends upon how it was categorized. The Massachusetts Court System has different timelines for when divorces are truly completed.

If a divorce is classified as 1A, or generally when the divorce and its applicable negotiations are uncontested by the parties, then the divorce will end 120 days after the entry of the divorce judgment. If a divorce is classified as 1B, meaning generally that the parties do not contest the divorce but that they do disagree about divorce-related matters such as custody, property division, and support, then the end of the marriage does not occur until 90 days after the hearing if a judgment is entered in the matter. Fault-based contested divorces can follow different timelines.

The several months that a couple must wait before its divorce is finalized is called a divorce nisi. During that time, neither spouse may remarry as the marriage subject to the divorce is not technically dissolved. Once the divorce nisi ends, then the marriage is automatically terminated.

The divorce nisi phase gives couples a chance to continue their marriages if they have a change of heart. This does not happen in all cases, and for most the wait is simply the final step in getting to the end of a marriage. More specific questions about individual divorce timelines may be addressed by attorneys who work in the divorce and family law fields of practice.

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